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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, June 14, 2008
    John Davies protests our ground

    This is what documentary photographer John Davies reckons Otterspool Prom will look like if the planners get their way. He's been making it his business to keep an eye on what's happening to the public open spaces of Merseyside and beyond, and today he took a double-decker busload of us from the Albert Dock on a magical mystery tour of some of them.

    The magic is in sensing the original vision and quality of their creation - Stanley Park, Everton Park, green spaces designed and gifted to the city's people a hundred years apart. The mystery is in how today's citizens are permitting our elected leaders to sell off such valued places without a whisper - as will happen soon to the stretch of green alongside the promenade linking Otterspool to the city (the outcome of a Public Inquiry on these plans is due to be announced by the Secretary of State sometime before 11 July, according to John's project website www.ourground.net).

    John's driver dropped us off on top of Everton Brow to enjoy a great early-summer view over the city, but the way back took us past the decimated Dixie Dean Memorial Playing Fields, where generations of hopeful Deans and Rooneys have practised their art. Latterly the fields became the site of fierce but failed local protests, and now the ubiquitous JCBs churn the ground and drop the precast concrete pillars which will support the North Liverpool Academy on its forthcoming move uphill. Presumably this move is designed to make space for the new anfield football ground, which will also of course rip away a large chunk of Stanley Park from the people.

    So (harking back to yesterday's blog), John's current work illustrates that The Long Good Friday replays itself here in Liverpool, as it also does in Beijing, illustrated later today in a presentation by Ou Ning whose Da Zha Lan Project shows that the Olympic profiteers will go to any lengths to ensure that irreplaceable human heritage habitats get flattened if they stand in the way of their plans (This is the scandal which the British press stumbled onto last week via the involvement of Prince Charles in protests to protect the Ming Dynasty area from the regenerators).

    'They used to call it planning', someone pointedly noted today, and now regeneration and conflict go hand in hand. All quite depressing? Well, bringing proceedings to a close this evening Saskia Sassen made the point that the future for cities like Liverpool (and Beijing, and areas like East London) is when their people regain the capacity to be civic (civic places being where 'no matter what your differences, if you play by their rules all can use them' - like in the NHS and on public transport). Sassen underlined that we must accept that these good civic conditions will inevitably be forged in conflict, like the conflicts generated by the physical and social violence of regeneration economics. So - that John Davies, this John Davies, and even people with other names - we'll keep on in a hopeful struggle.

    Illustration: Otterspool Promenade Impression, Liverpool © John Davies October 2007, from www.ourground.net
    Impression showing impact of planned "Finger-Blocks" on Promenade